Why Dainik Jagran will get away with the exit poll

The failure of the Election Commission to identify and take action against the media house, pollster and the alleged advertiser of the exit poll carried by Dainik Jagran raises uncomfortable questions


Abhishek Srivastava

The arrest and subsequent release on bail of Dainik Jagran’s online editor Shekhar Tripathi for carrying an exit poll in violation of the Election Commission’s instructions has raised several piquant questions.

As reported in a section of the media earlier, Dainik Jagran’s CEO Sanjay Gupta had explained that the Advertisement Department of the newspaper had inadvertently put the exit poll online for an hour or so before taking it down. While this seemed to have been designed to influence the subsequent phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh, the Election Commission’s order has come under a lot of flak.

  • Why was the Online Editor arrested if the culprit was the Advertisement Department?
  • Why has no action been initiated against the advertiser? Why is the identity of the advertiser being protected?
  • While EC’s order names RDI (India) Pvt Ltd as having conducted the exit poll, the Gurgaon-based HR company denies any role in the exit poll
  • But even Delhi-based Research & Development Initiative Pvt Ltd, a polling agency, denied conducting the exit poll to news portal thewire.in which first reported the violation
  • So, who conducted the exit poll? Why has the identity of the polling agency not been ascertained yet by the EC?
  • Since existing laws make no mention of either New Media or Social Media, can Dainik Jagran, the alleged advertiser and the polling agency be prosecuted?

The Wire reported that the polling agency run by a psephologist Devendra Kumar is considered to be close to the BJP. “India Today in 2013 described RDI as an agency that worked closely with Arun Jaitley and Vasundhara Raje. RDI’s Kumar is a columnist at DailyO, a portal run by the India Today group, and makes no bones about his leanings towards the BJP.” When contacted by The Wire, however, Kumar denied any connection to the Jagran poll. “My company has not done any such thing,” he told The Wire.

RDI is the polling agency which had projected 45 seats for the BJP in exit polls conducted after the Delhi assembly election in 2015.

Rajeev Gupta, MD of the HR company RDI was still in a state of shock on Tuesday when he learnt from his friends that the EC had named his company as the culprit. He told this correspondent over the phone, "We have nothing to do with politics, polls, survey etc. We have an international clientele and ours is an HR company that helps hire executives. I do not know whom to contact and what to clarify. This is bizarre. Since our company's name comes at the top when RDI is searched for in Google search, I think that is why everyone zeroed in on us without verifying first hand."

RDI, the polling agency, has its registered office at Kalkaji, Delhi and its directors are Avinash Dixit and Devendra Kumar, as per data on the Registrar of Companies website.

It is still not clear why Shekhar Tripathi was arrested by UP Police which also raided the homes of Jagran New Media Chief Executive Officer Sukriti Gupta, Jagran English Online Deputy Editor Varun Sharma and Digital Head Puja Sethi, The Indian Express reported.

The ugly episode has put a question mark on all kinds of polls. Are they paid propaganda published or broadcast for a price?

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